Zend Conference 2006 Day 2

This Day 2 of coverage for ZendCon 2006 and was written on 31 October so all “today”'s, “yesterday”'s, etc should be seen from that perspective. Day 1 coverage is available here. For coverage on other sites, check out the ZendCon Coverage list.

Update: Now with pictures! Special thanks to Sebastian Bergmann and Cal Evans for their excellent photo coverage of ZendCon 2006.

This morning started with an opening welcome and keynote from the namesake of the conference, Zend. Things got started about 15 minutes late, but the crowd didn't seem to mind at all. On that note, the latest numbers on registration seem to be about 550 people or about 200 more than last year.

In terms of the keynote, things got off to a rocky start. Andy, Zeev, and a third gentleman (Name removed) stood up and prepared to get going while a 4th guy was running the tech. Unfortunately, the network was down momentarily and their tech guy was trying to restore the connection. Instead of dealing with it respectfully or chalking one up for Murphy, the 3rd guy proceeded to say to their tech guy “Well, we need the connection, so start the music again and we'll try this again in five minutes”. Personally, I think it was a bit of a jackass thing to do and say, so when the tech finally came through – in about 60 seconds – I started a round of applause which other people joined.

For the three of you who have never given a presentation in your life, please note that occassionally things go wrong. You can either take a deep breath and work through it or have a backup plan. Geeks – by our very nature – understand tchnical difficulties and will give you the benefit of the doubt 99.75% of the time.

The team went on to talk about some of the various php applications out there along with some of the “Web 2.0” concepts. This is familiar ground for most of us, but it was a useful reminder of how things have changed in the last couple years. Their big examples were Facebook, Digg, and a few others you're already familiar with. On the other side of things, they had a heavily scripted (and forced) exchange where their tech guy gave a demo of a handful of php applications starting with Joomla, SugarCRM, and ZenCart… wha? As an aside… IMHO, there are a few applications that have given php a bad name due to their quality of code, security vulnerabilities, etc. phpBB is one of them and osCommerce/Zen Cart is the other. A well-designed php application it is not.

Update 11/04:Well, when I'm wrong, I don't like it, but here it goes: After seeing numerous hits and notes from the crew over at Zen Cart, I have a correction: It appears that ZenCart has undergone major cleanup, revision, and improvement in the 15+ months since I've last looked at it and I have done that community a disservice in not seeing or evaluating this effort. To that community: congrats on the development and you have my apologies. Now back to the coverage…

Which leads me to my secondpoint… people, please rehearse your presention. It appeared that they only ran through it once or twice. After talking with a few insiders, I found out that it was once… last night at midnight. But overall, they showed some nifty aspects of PHP, some of the applcations out there, and re-announced the release of PHP 5.2.0 for this Thursday.

The next portion of their presentation was interesting. A Microsoft rep – Bill Hilf – got up and announced IIS 7's support for FastCGI. To the layman this means that php is a closer, a better, and more useful in IIS 7. The rest of his demo consisted of running PHP on IIS 7 on Windows Vista on a MacBook… wha? Yes, you read that correctly, this Frankenstein's monster of creation was the stack for the demo. Nifty, but scary. Anyway, the announcement of FastCGI support is a huge step to breaking down the walls. No matter what you think of them, you have to acknowledge that this is a huge benefit for the PHP community. Knowing that PHP can be used on any common architecture is going to make the decision that much easier.

At that point, I stepped out for a break and ran into the highly esteemed Elliott White III (Eli). I congratulated him on the possibility of the Digg buyout rumors which he deftly pointed out that he couldn't even comment upon or confirm or deny. Doh. I missed the rest of the presentation and the Panel Discussion title “How Do The Stacks Stack Up?” as Eli and I camped out in the hallway and others joined and left the conversation over the duration. Then I went in and caught his presentation “High Volume PHP & MySQL Scaling Techniques” previously covered here: DC PHP Conference Day 1.

After lunch, Chris Anderson from Wired gave a keynote on “The Long Tail of Software” and gave everyone a free copy of his book. After reading many of the critiques of his book recently, I was impressed by some of how he's addressed them. It's obvious that he's added more data and has been digging up more information. Some of his information from Netflix – one of the areas where he's been criticized on previously – now supplement his hypothesis that much further. On the software front, he's gathered some compelling information from SourceForge demonstrating his points. Impressive.

Next, I decided to take the Zend Certified Engineer test and see how it goes. I've been poking a bit of fun and my friend and colleage Nola Stowe who has been prepping for it recently. Now we get to see if my brain has been where my mouth is. This made me miss the next two sessions.

Next, I attended the presentation from Andi Gutmans (Zend) & Stew Nicholas (IBM) on “Interoperability between J2EE and PHP” where they've been working over the past year to pull the various Java pieces together and use them from PHP via Web Services or the PHP Java bridge itself. They gave an overview on how they've used it, some code sample to instantiate EJB's, and how to parse the results. Interesting stuff and they have a paper coming out later this week.

The final session of the day was “Google Data API” from Google's Bharat Mediratta. He spent most of the time showing some of the amazing things that Google is doing with their various data services. Then he talked in detail about their new authentication model… the interesting thing is that it's not directly password based. You would log into Google and allow individual 3rd party systems to certain aspects of your data. This generates a token for them – which can be revoked at any time – and allows them to retrieve the data you've allowed. He showed some simple demos of pulling this XML, applying an XSL stylesheet and making some simple functionality with only a few lines of code.

The last thing of the day was the opening of the exhibition hall sponsored by Facebook. I talked with a couple of their guys in detail and found out some great details. They serve as their own SMS aggregator and deal directly with the carriers and built their on SMPP server to interact with the binds. For the 99.9999% of you who don't work with mobile messaging or WAP, this is actually a huge effort. Most companies who want to do mobile messaging deal with an aggregator who hides all the detail of the wireless carriers and handles all the complexity… Facebook is doing it themselves.

In addition, ActiveState, Paypal, Ebay, Adobe, and quite a few other companies are in attendance. Of most interest to me were the IBM guys who had another QEDWiki demo (some info here). The same Product Manager from last year was at the booth, so I asked when the release was coming… unfortunately, the lawyers have gotten in the way. This was the same story they gave us last year, so I poked them a bit on it. Last year it would have been a world-shaking app for people wanting to use wikis… this year it's still impressive.